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Creating Immersive Environments with Augmented Reality

Creators

Meredith Winner | February 15, 2018
Using projection mapping, audiovisual elements, and virtual reality, interdisciplinary artist Can Buyukberber strives to constantly do things that haven’t been done before.

Can Buyukberber is pioneering the exploration between art and technology. He creates immersive environments, combining virtual reality, audiovisual elements, and projection mapping. His work facilitates experiences that challenge human perception of reality and provoke conversation around the fundamental nature of consciousness.

Born and raised in Izmir, Turkey, Buyukberber spent 10 years living in Istanbul and then moved to the U.S. in August 2015 to pursue his master’s degree at the San Francisco Art Institute. He describes his body of work as one unit, with each piece representing a puzzle piece in the larger whole, leading to his inability to single out any project as being his favorite. The new augmented realities he is creating elicit what he describes as “genuine and sincere responses,” which is how he answered each topic we addressed.

He is currently enrolled in a three-month augmented-reality artist-in-residency program and has numerous projects slated for 2018. While eager to discuss his past work and background, he was careful not to divulge many secrets about his process or what he’s up to next.

Can you tell us a little about your art and background?

I have a background in physics and visual communications design, but I always wanted to pursue being an artist. My practice consists of experimenting with different media in both digital and physical realms, trying to find new ways of combining spaces. For instance, last year I was doing a lot of VR and projection mapping using architecture. I’ve also done smaller-scale physical installations with object-based 3-D printing, combining lighting, audio, and visual. I like creating audio/visual immersive experiences, removing the audience from their daily state of consciousness. I also like playing with macro/micro overview effect. I’m highly interested in immersion, geometry, and geometric patterns that can be observed in nature and play between organic and inorganic shapes. Most of my inspiration comes from observations of nature and physics, applying the natural beauty to scientific schematics and turning that into an experience.

Was physics or art first?

The art was first. I was always a creative child. I liked drawing and building and my parents were supportive of this, but I didn’t know I could grow up to be an artist. In the back of my mind I wanted to be a director or a musician, but I went to a science high school and studied physics. I didn’t play an instrument, but the fascination with music was about the creativity and artistic freedom of the career. I stopped studying science when I discovered computer graphics and delved into digital communication and design.

During high school, I would try to mimic the special effects I’d seen in movies in my spare time. I got job offers from post-production and visual-effects houses as a result of my amateur projects, but after working for several years, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my role in the industry. Once I began studying visual communication design, I came to the realization that I could use similar techniques but didn’t have to serve the movie or any commercial industry: I could use them for art. New-media arts was emerging at the time in Turkey, which opened up many new opportunities.

Who are some of your influences?

As this discipline is new, it’s really difficult to find people to look up to, since most people are very young and figuring it out at the same time. In this context, a majority of the people in this field are my colleagues.

Most of the people who influence me are in the musical realm: Carsten Nicolai, aka Alva Noto, who performs as a musician but also creates installation and sculptural work. Trent Reznor, not just musically, but the way he expands his approach to music each time he creates it. There’s also those in the movie industry, like Lucas and Spielberg, who do storytelling via digital arts. As a kid, their movies opened my eyes to visual culture and experiences.

What are some of the recurring themes in your work and why?

I am drawn to patterns in general: behavioral, geometrical, and personal. I try to discover these patterns more in my life, and this is reflected in my work depending on what I am involved in at the time. The mood of my work is reflective of my state of mind at the time the work was created.

I work with patterns because ultimately I think I have a fear of repeating myself, including my choices and ideas. I’m trying to understand the patterns of the choices I make, and to make better choices or avoid repetition. Also, a pattern that can be observed in nature and seems to work can be applied to our daily life for efficiency.

What is most exciting to you about digital art in general?

It’s so new, and there are constantly new developments in the technology. All the ideas are fresh and it’s a whole new landscape, less limited, like literature or cinematic arts, which have been around for centuries. There’s a whole canon for those disciplines, but this is new territory, which gives more space to innovate. This is exciting to me, being able to connect the dots of things that haven’t been done before. It’s a whole new and richer way of expression that wasn’t previously possible.

What memorable responses or interactions have you had or witnessed as a result of your work?

The best moments I have witnessed are less about responses to interactivity and more about immersion. At the Signal Light Festival in Prague at the Michna Palace in 2014, I worked on a large architectural projection-mapping project where more than 400,000 people flowed through in four days. It was so interesting to observe thousands of people have the same reaction at the same moment in time.

When using VR, it’s particularly interesting to watch people’s reactions while they are immersed in the experience because they usually forget where they are, and they are reacting to an alternate world. You can see pure awe on their faces and people in both overwhelmed and in blissful states. When participants come out of the experience, their first impressions are so pure and real, and I often find myself in deep conversations immediately following. VR is such a powerful talking tool.

Can you tell us a little bit about your process? How do you land on an idea and how do you execute it?

It’s very fluid actually. I really like to transform ideas by evolving them into iterations. That’s why I like to use different media, like 3-D prints to 2-D to physical objects, or photographing something and transposing it into digital. Transforming ideas through media gives me a lot of inspiration.

My process is usually like a musical jam session, similar to how musicians jam on a riff. You have a small semblance of an idea, a couple of visual loops or a couple of words in your mind, and when you put them together to create a composition, it becomes the work itself. Because of this fluid process and fast and flexible decision-making, I’m not always successful on collaborative projects or with obtaining grants, as it’s often required that I put my whole plan down on paper, and I’m unable to do this. I really like working alone as I really enjoy the process of working within my own personal limits.


For other creative people, join the Fernet-Branca Family


All images courtesy of Can Buyukberber

 

Meredith Winner is an art-enthusiast and advocate living in San Francisco. She is the co-founder of Building 180, an emerging artist representation and consulting company that focuses on public art placement, creation, and curation.

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